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BREAKING: New Jersey “Road Rage Cop” Acquitted in Maryland Murder Trial

BREAKING: New Jersey “Road Rage Cop” Acquitted in Maryland Murder Trial

NJ Police Officer Joseph Walker acquitted in the murder of MD-native Joseph Harvey Jr.

Just breaking in the last few minutes, NJ police officer Joseph Walker, tried on charges of  first degree murder in the road-rage shooting of Joseph Harvey Jr., has been acquitted. Not many details yet, so we’ll just share the news as provided by Hudson News 12 New Jersey, Hudson County Detective Joseph Walker acquitted in Maryland shooting:

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – A New Jersey detective was acquitted today of all charges in the killing of a driver during an alleged road-rage incident.

Joseph Walker, an investigator for the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, has been cleared of first-degree murder in the death of 36-year-old Joseph Harvey, of Lansdowne, Maryland.

Prosecutors say Walker, 41, shot Harvey after the two pulled over in Millersville on June 8, 2013 after some traffic jostling. Walker’s lawyers have said their client thought he, his wife and three children were in danger when he fired his gun.

The Anne Arundel County Circuit court jury delivered the verdict after a day of deliberations.

Key to this case was that Maryland is a very strong “duty-to-retreat” state. This means that if one has a safe avenue of retreat one is required to take advantage of it before you can make use of deadly force in self-defense.

Given that Walker was standing beside his operable minivan (with his family inside), and the unarmed aggressor whom he shot, Harvey, had to cross ~150 feet of distance on foot before being within reaching distance, a reasonable argument existed that Walker could have simply driven away rather than resort to his service pistol.

Taking the stand in his own defense Walker testified when asked about this issue that he’d had merely a split-second in which to make the decision. Apparently the jury found his explanation more compelling than whatever it was the prosecution presented to them (sadly, the trial was not live streamed.)

Also important to keep in mind is that the burden of persuasion was on the state of Maryland to disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt, the same as in every other state but Ohio.  Clearly the jury here concluded they had failed to do so.

(Much of our detailed prior coverage of this case since the shooting occurred can be found here.)

More details to follow.

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense


Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog (autographed copies available) and Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle). He holds many state-specific Law of Self Defense Seminars around the country, and produces free online self-defense law educational video- and podcasts at the Law of Self Defense University.

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Comments

MouseTheLuckyDog | July 30, 2014 at 12:59 pm

That’s what happens when the prosecution relies on the word of a drunken wife beater, and a bunch of witnesses who only saw bits and pieces. Oh and the witness who saw the most supporting the defense more then the prosecution.

    Actually, that ‘witness’ turned out to be a whack job crook who recanted his statement, so Walker didn’t even have that benefit.

    This was just a baseless persecution by slobbering, gun hating left fascists all along.

    Kudos to the jury, which obviously didn’t even need to deliberate.

As a DA investigator Walker is probably a very polished witness. Even though he was not a Maryland Officer the jury probably looked at him as a Law Enforcement Officer facing a threat.

    I expect that’s the case. Police often get a benefit of the doubt rarely extended to, say, a civilian CCW’ing.

    And/or the jury simply found the narrative of the “split-second to make a decision” more compelling than whatever the prosecution offered as an alternative.

    Having not seen the actual testimony, it’s impossible to know.

    In any case, had this occurred in any of the 34 stand-your-ground states, it almost certainly would never even have gone to trial. Given that I support stand-your-ground on both moral and public policy grounds, I’m certainly not going to shed a tear over this outcome.

    From all I heard from professional colleagues of Walker (some of whom I’ve known personally for years, and whose judgment I trust), he seems a genuinely nice man without any history of aggression or confrontational behavior.

    Harvey, on the other hand . . . well, less so.

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

      sequester in reply to Andrew Branca. | July 30, 2014 at 1:14 pm

      In the same vein, here is what the National Police Defense Foundation wrote about Walker:

      http://www.npdf.org/legal-defense-detective-joseph-walker/

        tkc882 in reply to sequester. | July 30, 2014 at 2:00 pm

        Based on the reporting on this I’d have a tough time with a conviction based on ‘beyond a shadow of a doubt’.

        Are there cops out there that abused their authority by creating a confrontation where they then use force? Yes.

        Does this seem like one? No. Certainly not enough to justify a 1st degree murder conviction.

      sequester in reply to Andrew Branca. | July 30, 2014 at 1:22 pm

      This article describes the testimony two police use of force experts. One said Walker acted in accordance with is training. The other expert from Maryland said there were other tactical options available. That expert said Walker should never have stopped his vehicle.

        Char Char Binks in reply to sequester. | July 30, 2014 at 1:42 pm

        I have to disagree with Sgt. Gleason — pulling over to let a road rager pass is often the best thing to do, and he had no choice if he was run off the road. Granted, pulling over to avoid a road duel is one thing, and pulling over to engage in fisticuffs or mutual combat is another, and I don’t know which he did. Anyway, burden of proof, and all that. Driving away after H and P exited their vehicle, before they got close enough to fight or block his exit, would have been better, but we don’t know if W had that opportunity for safe retreat at the time of the shooting.

        not_surprised in reply to sequester. | July 31, 2014 at 1:13 pm

        to keep on driving just fuels the road rage and risks further escalation or a rollover. I had a case of road rage, and they guy would not leave me alone. if I slowed, he slowed, if I sped he sped up. long stretch of highway with no nearly towns very late at night. my only ‘safe’ option since I had a fast car was to go into beyond felony speeds and did this at a risk, but no other option seemed available at the time.

        By stopping he acted to diffuse the rolling disturbance and it on Harvey to have stopped to continue it.

        Now, I would not stop if unarmed on the side of a highway. remember what happened to the young guy in PA? he stopped called 911 and the aggressor just came up and shot him. I’d consider stopping as an option if I had the means to defend myself (gun) if needed on a roadside escalation, but every situation is different.
        He made the right call.

      The prosecutor is a tool and justice was done. I hope Walker is not financially ruined by this.

I am not surprised.

Richard Aubrey | July 30, 2014 at 1:31 pm

“”That expert said Walker should never have stopped his vehicle.””

The only reason for this assertion is that W should have known H was a brainless thug who wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to try to beat him (W) senseless or kill him. So he should have kept driving while H was doing the bumper car thing, being a brainless thug actively trying to injure or kill W and family.
Didn’t make any more sense to the jury than to anybody else, I suppose.

It’s better to be tried by twelve than carried by six.

Lots of room to secondguess Walker’s behavior in the road rage lead up and stopping on the side of the road.

Perhaps Walker may have broken Maryland law, maybe. But the verdict does not seem unjust.

    tencz65 in reply to Howard Roark. | July 30, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    but a man is dead . maybe not a nice man maybe not even a good man , we didn’t know much bout him . But he is dead . Walker had ways of escape imo !!

      pjm in reply to tencz65. | July 30, 2014 at 2:27 pm

      Just because someone is dead, that does not mean whoever killed them did wrong.

      JackRussellTerrierist in reply to tencz65. | July 30, 2014 at 4:04 pm

      If he wanted to escape/retreat, he would have. He had plenty of opportunity to do so, including starting by calling 9-1-1 right off the bat. But Walker did none of that. He had three different stories about why he pulled over, none of them believable, especially when there are three of them! 🙂 He verbally egged Harvey on after Harvey exited his vehicle and waited for Harvey to close the distance with his gun ready, waiting for him to get within threat range, then shot him dead like a dog. Having his family with him when this happened was a giant bonus.

      Most people don’t realize what cold, calculating SOBs cops can be, and most people, including jurors, are ruled by their emotions rather than logical and analytical thought. Walker knew all he had to do was get on the stand and make himself a ‘victim’ because Harvey slung the enword at a him a couple times and he’d be good to go. Never mind that Walker himself has probably used it 10,000 times himself and as a cop, should certainly be steeled to it. Walker just wanted to shoot himself a loudmouthed redneck slinging it at him over a vehicle incident that Walker instigated, perhaps accidentally, perhaps on purpose.

        You may be right, you may be wrong. But one opinion mattered legally, the jury’s. The jury found Walker not guilty. The matter is now closed. Walker can never be retried.

        So, you are a fan of D-T-R?

          JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Mustang. | August 2, 2014 at 3:15 am

          Quite the opposite. It isn’t the DTR aspect of this case that convinces me Walker is guilty of first-degree murder. It’s Walker’s actions and changing stories that convinces me, and my experience.

        No offense but did you say the same thing about the GZ jury? Or like most of us here, did you cheer the jury weighing the evidence?

        Other than that, your comment is fairly good. Get the fly out of the punch bowl. 🙂

          JackRussellTerrierist in reply to platypus. | August 2, 2014 at 2:16 am

          The GZ case was open and shut self-defense. The jury EVENTUALLY got it right, but they should have been back with a NG verdict in an hour.

      Exiliado in reply to tencz65. | July 30, 2014 at 6:21 pm

      Apparently, he got what he asked for.

Richard Aubrey | July 30, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Trying again:

“”That expert said Walker should never have stopped his vehicle.””

The only reason for this is that W should have known H was a brainless thug who wouldn’t miss an opportunity to beat him (W) senseless or kill him. So he should keep driving while H does his bumper car thing, trying to injure or kill W and family.
Didn’t make any more sense to the jury than to anyone else, I guess.

BrokeGopher | July 30, 2014 at 1:42 pm

So this means it’s open season on white people now? (Trayvon logic)

Good. See all of my prior comments on this case. Never should have been brought.

Now that this is over , I hope Detective walker can resume his career. If not go into private investigation,bounty hunting or executive protection.

    Gremlin1974 in reply to m1. | July 30, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    From what I have read he has only been on leave without pay, so it would seem he should be able to resume his old job. I wonder if he will have to face an investigation by his own department, I am guessing it would probably have already been completed.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to m1. | August 2, 2014 at 3:10 am

    I wouldn’t hire him. I wouldn’t want him even remotely close to my family or friends.

    He abuses his badge, gun and authority to intimidate people. He’s a lawsuit waiting to be filed.

Humphrey's Executor | July 30, 2014 at 1:57 pm

The fact that this case wasn’t televised was, I think, a good thing. The justice system functions better outside of the Three Ring Circus setting. See contra Florida v Zimmerman.

I’d like to know from the record if Pidel tried to peddle his line about not telling Harvey about the gun on the witness stand.

If so, then the jury knew it was being lied to straight to its collective face and it could reasonably conclude that, knowing about the gun and still not being deterred, Harvey was in a depraved state of mind and not likely to be deterred by any form of ‘retreat’ on Walker’s part whatsoever.

Middle aged family man, in a minivan with his wife and kids.

Also a cop.

Also a black man being confronted by a less than upstanding white guy.

Cannot say I’m surprised. Although I would agree that he got granted a degree of latitude that few if any ordinary citizen/CCWs would get.

Detective Walker had the right not to be threatened by an enraged drunken racial slurring road rage fueled person. Even in a DTR State.

Andrew – were there ‘lesser includeds’ ? I forget.

    The lesser included charges are generally automatically included.

    Once the jury buys perfect self-defense, however, they all go away.

    (Some states recognized the doctrine of so-called “imperfect self-defense,” which mitigates what would have been murder to manslaughter.)

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

I think ThomasD is right on the money.

Middle aged cop, returning from a kid’s birthday party with his wife and three kids is run off the road by two guys who throw a can at his car and hurl racial epithets. They then exit their car and advance on the cop.

Could Walker have fled the scene safely? Maybe. But ask yourself this…if you had just been run off the road by these two yahoos, how anxious would you be to get back in your car and flee, possibly at high speed and again risk your, your wife, and your children’s lives if these two yahoos decided to pursue and again run you off the road?

Richard Aubrey | July 30, 2014 at 2:58 pm

Could Walker have fled the scene safely? Maybe. But ask yourself this…if you had just been run off the road by these two yahoos, how anxious would you be to get back in your car and flee, possibly at high speed and again risk your, your wife, and your children’s lives if these two yahoos decided to pursue and again run you off the road?

Mustang. That this would have been in perfect safety was probably one of the state’s assertions, or implications, that the jury was expected to believe.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Richard Aubrey. | August 2, 2014 at 3:04 am

    No, Walker pulled over to check his tires because he ran over rumble strips, remember? 🙂

    Oh, I see, you’re buying story No.3 (or is No.4?) in which he says Harvey ran him off the road.

    Okay. Got it.

if he wasn’t a cop the trial would have been a hell of a lot harder.
iirc the idiots were already in front of him when he pulled over.
always seemed to me he had an easy way to unass the area.
guess duty to retreat only applies to civilians.
oh well, the 2 idiots probably well deserved it anyways so I’m not too torn up over the verdict.

ScottTheEngineer | July 30, 2014 at 3:43 pm

The problem with him getting in his car and escaping is that he really couldn’t without putting the wife in jeapordy. They were on the freeway. Can’t go backwards and going forwards means taking your eyes off the psycho coming towards you to look for clear traffic re-entrance. If it was clear to reenter traffic it then meant exposing the passenger side of his vehicle to the psychopath. I think he did right. That’s how I see it anyway.

JackRussellTerrierist | July 30, 2014 at 3:45 pm

This was a cold-blooded murder born of anger that Walker, an experienced and sworn peace officer, set up in such a way as to make self-defense viable to the gullible.

But the verdict is no surprise. After the demonstrated gross stupidity or jurors in the Casey Anthony case, nothing can surprise me. I’ve thought and said I didn’t think Walker would be convicted, regardless of DTR. Personally, DTR was never the issue to me because Walker was well past even considering it. No, what he did would have been first-degree murder in any state.

I hope he’s bankrupted, but he got money from various police organizations for his defense, so he probably won’t be. He’ll get high-fives and probably some more handouts when he returns to work, assuming he does, and he and his wife will gloat inwardly and between themselves for the rest of their lives.

So it always goes.

    MouseTheLuckyDog in reply to JackRussellTerrierist. | July 30, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    Who died and made you Angela Corey?

    Calling Dr. Freud….

    I believe, and Andrew probably knows definitively, that there is a degree of civil immunity in Maryland that attaches to a person who uses lawful self-defense. Walker’s very substantial legal fees will likely be covered by a police union fund.

    Please read what Andrew wrote above:

    From all I heard from professional colleagues of Walker (some of whom I’ve known personally for years, and whose judgment I trust), he seems a genuinely nice man without any history of aggression or confrontational behavior

      JackRussellTerrierist in reply to sequester. | August 2, 2014 at 2:20 am

      Nobody in an employer or professional capacity is going to run the risk of a slander suit by telling somebody who blogs legal cases on a well-known law site that Walker was a bad guy.

      Here’s the rub, starting at about 2:15:

      http://www.wbaltv.com/news/jury-finds-nj-officer-not-guilty-in-road-rage-trial/27234080#!btw64u

        So why in the name of all things fuzzy was the prosecution waiting until sentencing to bring these things to light? I mean an Internal Affairs investigation that determined he was lying, why would you hold on to that?

          JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Gremlin1974. | August 2, 2014 at 3:53 pm

          Because it might not be admissible at trial under MD law.

          Gremlin1974 in reply to Gremlin1974. | August 2, 2014 at 4:48 pm

          @JackRussellTerrierist

          Wouldn’t surprise me, but I still think its a special kind of stupid. Though it dies explain his changing stories.

          Unfortunately, the jury has spoken. At least one good thing could come out of this, he will never ever not be under constant scrutiny and if he oversteps again, it will make the news.

          Frankly, I am betting the jury acquitted him on the “defense of family” argument. Had he been alone in the van, I am betting it would have been a conviction.

    Really? Really?

    There is absolutely NO EVIDENCE that Walker pulled over to actively engage hi9s assailants. There is NO EVIDENCE that set up an ambush or lay in wait for Harvey. So, how is the mentalist act working out for you?

    The evidence showed that Harvey was the aggressor. It showed that Pudel KNEW Walker was armed, and it can be assumed that Harvey did as well. When Pudel saw the pistol in Walker’s hand, HE stopped his advance. Harvey, in the face of a victim armed with a deadly weapon continued to advance on Walker. Though the testimony of witnesses hurtling past he scene at 40_mph are in dispute on this point, it appears that Walker fired a non-fatal shot at Harvey, which his him in the leg, and Harvey continued to advance. This would seem to indi9cate that Harvey was determined to physically assault Walker or that he was psychotic or delusional.

    This was not murder.

      Gremlin1974 in reply to Mac45. | July 31, 2014 at 1:50 pm

      I only want to disagree with one thing you said. You said Walker fired a “non-fatal” shot. Now I don’t know if Walker claimed his first shot was a warning shot or what, but it was the first shot that hit Harvey in the leg that killed him. It severed his femoral artery and he died of blood loss from what I have read.

      My problem is not your opinion but the characterization of a non-fatal shot. With today’s high powered ammunition any shot could be fatal, there is no such thing as a “non-fatal” shot.

      JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Mac45. | August 2, 2014 at 2:47 am

      Yes, really.

      I don’t recall seeing your name as a poster when this site reviewed and discussed the witness statements and Walker’s changing stories about why he pulled over in the first place.

      If you think the first shot Walker fired wasn’t fatal, then you know little about this case. You’re blowing smoke.

      If you actually believe that Walker, an experienced, trained police officer, didn’t know a guy he had JUST had a road rage altercation with parked 150′ ahead of him on a flat surface and didn’t have the situational awareness to see him (Harvey) walking toward him then you’re an abject fool. If you believe Walker when he said he ran over rumble strips and pulled over to check for a flat and/or believe him when he alternately said on the stand that Harvey had run him off the road, you’re an abject fool. If you believe Walker didn’t have his gun ready during and when Harvey, clearly unarmed, closed at least part of the 140′ of the 150′ separating the vehicles (and stopped in his tracks with his arms out looking at Walker) and wasn’t waiting for Harvey to get into a range in which he, Walker, could claim self-defense, then you are an abject idiot.

      If you don’t know that Walker has a history of throwing his badge, gun and title around to intimidate people and then lying to Internal Affairs about it, then you are just another fool who has no idea of what kind of “officer” Walker is.

      If you don’t see that Walker suckered Harvey into getting close to him so he could claim self-defense for shooting Harvey in cold blood then you’re probably past being an abject fool and are actually a danger to yourself.

      Twanger in reply to Mac45. | August 6, 2014 at 11:56 am

      Re: non-fatal shot speculation:

      I have 3 police officers in the family.

      They do not “shoot to wound.” They are not trained this way.

      They are trained to shoot with lethal effect if they must draw their weapon, which they do when faced with a real threat. Their training is to shoot until the threat is neutralized. When Harvey continued walking in after being shot the first time, it would have been clear to Walker that the threat had not been neutralized.

      It’s actually rather surprising that Walker paused after the first shot. My daughter says that she was trained to assess if the threat is neutralized while she’s shooting. This generally means that more than one round is going down-range from the get-go.

jackrussellfairiest, saying it doesn’t make it true. saying it over and over doesn’t make it true. what is true, is you don’t know squat. not one sentence of testimony, just second hand news articles. stfu

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to vsop4u. | August 2, 2014 at 2:57 am

    It is indeed true. Walker is just another lying, scumbag cop who abuses his authority to intimidate and get his way. I’ve seen and worked with hundreds of them.

    I’ll stfu when I’m good and damned ready.

Gremlin1974 | July 30, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Andrew, has there been any indication about how much the defense stressed that Walker was defending his family (i.e. a third party)? I think this could have played a major role in the juries decision since there doesn’t seem to be a duty to retreat when defending a third party. I don’t think it would have been that hard to argue that the family was in danger as well.

I think this was probably a good decision by the jury. While I do question some of Walkers assertions about not knowing Harvey was there and not having enough time to retreat, it was 2 against 1 and I can understand a man defending his wife and kids, even if he knows that defense might mean going to jail.

I’m glad Walker was acquitted. Can I stop being a racist now for being glad Zimmerman was acquitted?

Here’s a case of a family man, a working man, taxpayer, pays his mortgage, sweats over how he’s going to afford college for the kids against well….the other guy. A few less other guys in the world isn’t going to make Maryland a worse place to live. Not guilty. easy decision.

Where’s Rags?

Gremlin1974 | July 31, 2014 at 1:53 pm

I would love to see the actual jury instructions for this case. I think it would be interesting. I don’t know if MD has standardized jury instructions or not, but a lot of times the instructions are modified for each case.

I wonder if they included defense of a third party?

I think people need more facts on this case. Such as how come Walker was not checked for drugs or alcohol? How come Walker shot Harvey 3 times? After he shot the first time Walker could have drove away called 911 and had been out of danger. Why did Walker need to carry a gun from New Jersey to Maryland for a child’s birthday party? Harvey has been labeled a thug. Why? It has been reported that he was a hard working guy who recently bought a house. Not many Thug’s do that. Also how come Harvey is labeled a racist as well for calling Walker the N word which I agree is not a good word but it is ok for Harvey to be labeled a thug or any of the other names he has been called because of the way he looked. I think that is just as bad as the n word. I do think the jury got this one wrong.

    m1 in reply to wrong. | August 1, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    LEOSA is why Detective Walker carried his gun from NJ to a birthday party in Maryland.Many So what Harvey bought a house? Many people called thugs but houses and other property.Once again Detective Walker had the right not to be threatened by a drunken,hyped on energy drinks,racially slurring ,fueled with road rage bad guy.

      wrong in reply to m1. | August 1, 2014 at 2:18 pm

      How do you know Harvey was a bad guy? He was under the legal limit so calling him drunken isn’t correct. How do we know Walker wasn’t drunk? No test were ever administered on him. As far as racial slurs I don’t agree with using the n word but what is the difference when black people call other black people the n word. That isn’t racial. Walker is no saint I did see on the news he has abused his police badge in other occasions. Against a female neighbor and two other issues he was found being aggressive as well being caught lying when questioned by his superiors. He does not deserve to be out on the streets. To shoot an unarmed man 3 times is just ridiculous.

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